Forgotten Classics November 16, 2014

Houghton takes on New Zealand

Interviews by Tristan Holme
Dave Houghton fought excruciating humidity to score a heroic 142 in Hyderabad in 1987, bringing his side within touching distance of upsetting New Zealand

Houghton: "I just decided that we were going to try and win it in boundaries" © Getty Images

On an hot day in Hyderabad, Zimbabwe were 104 for 7 chasing 243 for victory against New Zealand in their first match of the 1987 World Cup. Playing in their second World Cup, their ambition was to stay competitive. Dave Houghton, their wicketkeeper-batsman, ensured just that when he cracked 142 - at the time the third-highest score in a World Cup. But with Zimbabwe 22 runs adrift from victory, Martin Crowe took one of the most spectacular catches of the tournament, which proved to be the turning point of the match. The game still went to the final over with Zimbabwe needing six runs for victory, with their last pair at crease.

Dave Houghton: It was the most special trip I've ever been on. I never knew people had that sort of affection for cricket players. It just made you feel about 15 feet tall. What was also stunning was that the Zimbabwe v New Zealand match in Hyderabad was sold out. It was hard to believe. Thirty-thousand fans - funnily enough most of the time they supported us, probably because we were the underdogs.

After Zimbabwe chose to bowl, New Zealand sprang a surprise by sending in Martin Snedden, a specialist seamer, as one of the openers.

Martin Snedden: It was an absolute bolt out of the blue for me. It was quite a wet day to start with - there had been quite a bit of rain in Hyderabad. About half an hour before the game our coach, Glenn Turner, came up to me and said, "Listen, you're going to open the batting today." I don't think I'd ever opened for New Zealand before, and I think the theory was that the conditions were a bit damp and a bit green and Turner was reluctant to expose the regular top order for the first few overs. It was a bit of a sacrificial-lamb situation.

The ploy worked better than Turner, and even Snedden, could have hoped. Snedden scored 64 - his only ODI fifty - as he put on 59 with fellow opener John Wright, and 84 for the second wicket with Martin Crowe, who made 72.

Snedden: I was fairly familiar with the Zimbabwe players because I'd toured Zimbabwe in 1984 with the Young New Zealanders team. The number one danger as we saw it was the opening bowler Peter Rawson, or "Wrecker" Rawson, which was his nickname. He was a good bowler and the conditions should have suited him. So in some ways I had a bit of a licence against him, and I got stuck into him early on, which seemed to knock him off his stride a bit.

New Zealand finished on 242 for 7.

Andrew Jones: We got off to a good start and then fell out through the middle - I was helpful in that regard. It was my debut but it wasn't a very good one - I got a duck.

Snedden: In those days 240 was regarded as a pretty good score - probably the equivalent of a 280 or a 300 now. We felt that we had enough, and it was just a matter of exerting the pressure that we needed to and they would struggle.

And that was what happened: Zimbabwe were reduced to 104 for 7. But one man stood between New Zealand and victory - Houghton, who compiled a classy, resolute century.

Houghton: It was extremely hot and very, very humid. You were just pouring sweat all the time. I was keeping at the time, so I was pretty tired at the end of the first 50 overs. We had made the decision that I was going to bat at three, so I padded up, didn't eat a lot of lunch because of the heat, and sat down. I was soon out there, and watched as wickets just tumbled at the other end. I don't even remember scoring my first 40 or 50 runs because I was just ticking it over, trying to find a partner to stay with me.

Butchy [Iain Butchart] came in at No. 9, but he wasn't someone you'd expect to play a long innings. I mean, if he was playing in this day and age he'd be worth gazillions in the IPL! Anyway, he came in and we still had 35 overs to play, so all we looked to do was get a partnership going and try and save face: "Let's not get bowled out for 120 because that looks rubbish." We started to get things going and soon we had 130 or 140, and gradually both of us expanded our games.

"Butchart had hit one straight out of Hyderabad, and I don't know what the next city is, but the ball landed quite close to it"
Dave Houghton

Stephen Boock: He [Houghton] was a classy and sophisticated player in that he didn't just butcher the ball. He just kept collecting and he managed the strike incredibly well.

Andy Waller: Dave was a great player of spin. At that stage he was probably rated as the best in the world, I reckon, or certainly highly thought of. Amazing, amazing talent.

New Zealand were playing three spinners, and Houghton countered them successfully by employing the reverse sweep, much to the chagrin of the team manager.

Houghton: I was a good player of spin, and I played a lot of reverse sweeps, which not a lot of people had seen at that time. Even our manager hadn't seen much of it. Don Arnott was the manager and his son Kevin was part of the squad. Every over Kev would come out with a bottle of water and say, "Dad says, please stop playing the reverse sweep." I'm not going to tell you what I told him to tell his dad.

Snedden: It sort of went from a situation where we had the match totally under control to a situation where we thought, "Ah yeah, he's having a bit of fun and we just have to keep our heads", to a situation where we thought, "Whoof, we're not really in control of this." It didn't matter who was bowling. He was taking it to us and he was running us ragged, really. He had us on toast by the end.

Boock: The crowd was absolutely on the side of David Houghton.

But the tropical heat was taking its hold on Houghton whose energies were fast sapping.

Houghton: I was starting to lose energy. I was losing water all the time, to the extent that I couldn't drink - it wouldn't go in any more - and I was dehydrated. I just decided with Butchy that we were going to try and win it in boundaries for a while, because I couldn't run any more. So for a couple of overs we both stood there swinging from the hip, and we got quite good at it.

There was one final twist. Houghton's six sixes and 13 fours had taken him to 142 off 137 balls. But a blinder of a catch from Martin Crowe brought an abrupt end to the brilliant innings. Zimbabwe were 221 for 8, needing another 22 for victory.

Houghton: I'd stepped away and had a slog at three in a row, and I sort of hit them in front of square on the leg side. So they put a man out there and Martin came off the long-on boundary, so I thought I'd hit the next one over his head. I got a pretty decent piece of it - it probably would have bounced a few yards short of the boundary, but I got too much height, which gave him time to turn around and sprint to it, and he took it full tilt looking over his shoulder - it was a brilliant catch.

Snedden It certainly wasn't my bowling that had done it - it was just a moment of brilliance from Martin's fielding that pulled it out of the bag.

New Zealand thought they had their man and the match. But…

Jones: We thought that was it, we had the main man. But they kicked on and it became very close and went right to the death.

Houghton: Sadly, Eddo Brandes, having sat and watched this 117-run partnership, didn't do any stretching or anything. He came in to replace me and Butchy called him for a quick single first ball and he snapped his hamstring halfway down the wicket and got run out by five yards and was also out for the rest of the tournament.

So Traics [John Traicos] went out there, and he was quite well aged at the time. He understood the game and had reasonable technique, but he wasn't too quick. He just held an end up and tried to give Butchy the strike when he could, and Butchy did what he could do - he hit people out of the ground.

The match entered the final over with Zimbabwe needing six runs to win.

Boock: I was in the side to bowl at the death, although I think I only played two matches. We survived the first one, got beaten in the second, and that was the end of me. But I did my job in that last over, and I felt really proud about that because it wasn't normal for a spinner to bowl at the death.

Houghton: Butchy had got to 50 by now. He'd hit one straight out of Hyderabad, and I don't know what the next city is but the ball landed quite close to it. They didn't talk enough, but Traics thought a run a ball would get us home, and Butchy thought one clean hit and we're out of here. Butchy did take a leg-bye from the first ball, and Traics hit a single the next ball. Butchy then had a swing at the third and missed but he still had three left and we knew he would hit one out of three.

The next ball he had another swing and was hit on the pad. Traics decided it was time for a single but Butchy just stood his ground looking at the ball and the two of them ended up by the keeper. It was an easy single, but the keeper ran ten yards to his right, picked the ball up and threw it in and ran one of them out. We ended up losing by three runs, which was very sad.

Jones: We were about as relieved as they were pissed off.

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